Chris Panayi, senior partner at accounting firm Hentons, is a music industry stalwart who has been working with musicians, managers, promoters, tour teams and agents for more than 40 years.
Here, he explains why the industry is feeling let down and ignored by the government during the Covid pandemic and Brexit touring crisis…
Brexit, streaming and Covid-19 have been a triple whammy for the music industry. Brexit has caused no end of problematic hoops for musicians and tour operators to jump through, with musicians forced to cancel EU gigs, and no clarity from the government on how negotiations are progressing with EU countries over potentially removing restrictions on touring.
Revenue from streaming continues to be a highly controversial and difficult issue for the industry, and despite a recent DCMS Committee investigation, there is no clear solution on how payments to musicians can be made fairer. Add the impact of Covid-19 to all of this, and the phrase ‘unprecedented challenges’ doesn’t even begin to cover what the industry is going through!
“Everyone in the industry has been hit hard, from big name stars to emerging and new artists and all of those support teams associated with live touring including sound engineers and lighting designers through to security companies and venues. Support for the music industry from the Chancellor in the Budget was notably absent and justifiably, the music industry feels let down and ignored.
“Many people in the industry live from contract to contract and without any shows for more than 18 months, their reserves are quickly running out. The majority work on a freelance basis and don’t qualify for grants or support. The stress these people have been under is shocking, with many earning nothing for more than a year. Where is the protection and support for an industry that under normal circumstances contributes so much to both the economy and the culture of our country?”
As the chief executive of the Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick, said: “Covid and Brexit have really impacted the music business, and although everyone remains hopeful that full-scale live shows might return in the UK, there's still a lot of uncertainty ahead - particularly when it comes to international touring, on which so many artists depend.”
Before the pandemic, employment in the industry hit an all-time high of almost 200,000 people in the UK, but the majority of those people have lost their jobs. There is no denying that times have really been hard. No touring also means no ticket revenue, no merchandise sales and no chance to connect in person with the fans.
It’s our responsibility to safeguard the future of this inspiring industry and the only way we can do that is as a collective
Of the hundreds of people in the music industry that we provide tax and accounting advice to, 70% lost the majority of their income overnight.
Our role has been to help those we represent with both financial and emotional guidance, and we have understood and listened to the significant problems that musicians, managers, agents and all of those associated with live touring are facing. We have helped them to access the nuggets of financial support that have been available to them, as well as liaising with banks providing accurate financial data to help negotiate loans and mortgage holidays, but a large-scale solution is needed to protect the industry and everyone in it from collapse.
People in the music industry are hard workers by nature, they need to be, but it’s up to all of us who advise and represent them to speak up and demand more support in order to deliver some sort of safety net. It’s our responsibility to safeguard the future of this inspiring industry and the only way we can do that is as a collective.
All Covid-19 restrictions are due to be lifted on June 21, which provides a glimmer of hope, but hopefully our Culture Secretary, and the government, will listen to industry calls for a state backed Covid-19 cancellation scheme for live events that will give some sort of security to organisers, performers and suppliers. If we are going to encourage confidence in music festivals, gigs and performances planned for this summer and beyond, we must follow other European countries and have the government underwrite Covid-19 cancellation insurance.
One thing I have learnt during my 40-plus years in the industry is the importance of trust. The government has supported the likes of the film and TV industry with a £500m Restart Scheme but left the music industry to borrow its own way out of the situation.
We are obviously very cautious about what the future of live performances holds, but one thing that has not changed is how resourceful and creative the people in the music industry are. Hopefully, despite what has been an impossibly difficult 12 months, some sort of financial security can start to be generated, so that the talented people in our industry can focus on what they do best - writing, recording and performing the wonderful music that makes our industry so unique.